Wyoming is home to many small towns, and while I can’t say that I have been to even the majority of them, the few I have had the opportunity to visit so far all have their own character and charm. In southern Wyoming, there are two small towns that are close to my heart that I’d like to encourage you to consider visiting and/or learning more about – Laramie and Saratoga.
Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming and next door to some exceptional hiking. And Saratoga is a very small town that is home to a beautiful hot springs. Taken together, these southern Wyoming towns have a little something for everyone – trails, history, and relaxation. So, think about these small towns to visit in southern Wyoming when planning your next trip!
Laramie and the University of Wyoming
I knew of Laramie before my first forays into Wyoming for one thing – the boy scouts. Of course, that’s a little ironic, because as a woman, I couldn’t be part of the boy scouts when I was little, so I never got to go. But the stories of the adventures to be had there were legendary among my family and my friends who were boy scouts.
Now, I live a short drive away from the town of Laramie, and I am a mini University of Wyoming student. So, I’ve grown a certain appreciation for the town, and do see it as a gateway to adventures in the wider Wyoming landscape.
As for the town itself, it is very small. And actually, after all the stories I had heard about Wyoming and Laramie itself, I was surprised to find that it is nested in a relatively flat area. There is no easily accessible hiking right in town. But with the University at its heart and a vibrant old town, Laramie is still a very cool place to check out when considering small towns to visit in southern Wyoming.
The downtown area of Laramie is not large by any means. You could easily shop it thoroughly in a few short hours. But that being said, it is full of nice shops (some of our favorites have Laramie-made adventure gear and University of Wyoming apparel), restaurants and coffee shops. You could easily make a leisurely partial day there by relaxing in a few food related places, shopping, and then eating lunch.
I would personally suggest starting such a day in Night Heron Books and Coffeeshop. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy some coffee or tea, and read a good book. Then, when the shops start opening up, take to the street and pop in here and there. I think you will find some nice souvenirs that are unique and support the local folks. If you are a hiker or outdoors person be sure to check out Atmosphere Mountainworks.
Also downtown is the Wyoming Women’s History House, which commemorates some of the accomplishments and strides of women in Wyoming. In particular, they focus on women’s suffrage and political leadership, as well as the bold efforts of women to live up to their potential in a world that consistently undermines them and seeks to find ways to rob them of their human rights.
I was lucky enough to be able to visit in 2022, when they were still open for walk-in visits. They will be closed for a membership campaign and special events from Dec 17-March 1, 2023, after which they will open for tours. If you happen to go when you can visit, I’d highly suggest it.
So Many Museums!
I will admit – I have not been to every museum in Laramie. In fact, I haven’t even scratched the surface. There are 15 museums listed on the Visit Laramie website. Now a good number of these are related to the University of Wyoming, but still!! 15 museums! You will need to visit at least one when you visit.
For me, I prioritized the Wyoming Women’s House as I described above and while it was small, I really enjoyed visiting. (I had no idea that Wyoming was so progressive back in the day around women’s voting rights!) In any case, if you like museums, make sure to factor this into your planning when considering small towns to visit in Southern Wyoming.
Food to Eat
There are lots of great places to grab a bite in Laramie!
Strangely, my number 1, favorite spot in town is the Sugar Mouse Cupcake House which features English style tea and snacks, as well as cupcakes and coffeehouse drinks. I am a HUGE fan of their scones and tea. Every time I am in Laramie, I want to go and get some. I’ve had some of their savory offerings as well, and enjoyed them. But if you like tea and scones… you gotta order that first. The one thing about Sugar Mouse is that it can get quite busy, especially if you are planning on dining in. So, consider eating on off-hours or being prepared to sit on the porch even if the weather isn’t ideal.
I mentioned Night Heron Books and Cofeehouse above, but that’s one of my favorite coffee spots in town. I really enjoy their hot drinks, and in my opinion, it is hard to beat the bookstore atmosphere.
For dinner, I also enjoy the Crowbar and Grill. They’ve got all the fixings of a hometown, American grill – good beers/ciders, burgers, sandwiches and more. They add an additional flare by making their dishes a little unique.
Nearby Hiking: Vedauwoo
I was a little shocked to learn that there isn’t hiking right in Laramie, but just down the road is Vedauwoo which is such a multi-faceted area that it has its own fan website. So, hiking can definitely be on your list when considering small towns to visit in Southern Wyoming.
The trail that we explored when we were able to visit was the Turtle Rock Trail, which is named for the turtle shaped rock formation (no surprise) that you can see from the trail. While this is a pretty popular loop, it’s a great introduction to Vedauwoo. It showcases the spectacular rock formations that make this particular area a favorite hiking spot. This is also where the name “Vedauwoo” comes from, as it was based on that Arapaho word “bito’o’wu” which means “earth born.”
The hikes in this area are easy to moderate, depending on how far you decide to go. I think this is a great spot for families. The trails are fairly flat, and there are so many interesting facets for the kids to enjoy while the adults take in the scenery.
Besides all the hiking, there is also climbing, picnicking and camping in this area. So, if you are a multi-sport person Vedauwoo has got you covered.
Saratoga and the Hot Springs
I had the opportunity to visit the very small town of Saratoga for a work training, and I found this little spot, tucked away between the mountains, to be very relaxing. The main draw of the town are the hot springs, and in particular, we spent our time at the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort. The atmosphere of the resort reminds me of a lodge – complete with a common room with a giant fireplace ringed with river rock. The warm wood of the building and green roof all come together to make a really magical space.
The rooms are fairly humble, but the resort has beautiful grounds, a brewery, and during the summer there are loads of activities. So, I wouldn’t spend much time in the room. The hot springs are also very nice. I’ve been to one that was actually not too warm, and I didn’t find that super enjoyable. But this wasn’t like that. The Saratoga Hot Springs Resort has waters that are the perfect temperature in my opinion. Especially, when it is raining or snowing. This is the perfect place for a snowy, fall day. They also have a mix of shared pools and smaller individual pools to lounge in.
Things to See
Truth be told, besides the hot springs, there isn’t a load to do in Saratoga. At least not outside of the summer. There are mountains nearby, but not right outside of town or anything like that. And the resort has activities, but only in the warmer months. Ok, and let’s be honest, I am no expert in fishing or anything like that, so I am not sure if there are things to do on the river that I might just not be aware of. But if you are a hiker and a history/culture buff, I will let you know what I found in town for your consideration of small towns to visit in southern Wyoming.
There is a very cute downtown in Saratoga, complete with a very vibrant coffee shop and some great, local shops. My favorite shop in town is called County 6 Clothing Co.. They have some really cool, Western motifs in their clothing – specifically, the infamous jackalope. They also have a lot of really nice tongue and cheek stuff. Definitely don’t miss out on this spot for souvenirs. See the following section for some food discussions.
If you are passing through Saratoga and you won’t be staying at the resort, you can still visit the hot springs. The Saratoga Hobo Hot Springs is a public hot springs with a long history in the community.
Fun fact: The Hot Springs were once known for their healing properties. At the very least, I can say that relaxing in these warm waters will heal your soul a little bit.
Food to Eat
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of the food options in Saratoga, but I was pleasantly surprised. In particular, I LOVED Bella’s Bistro. It was honestly the best Italian food that I have had in a very very long time. From drinks, salad, entrees, and dessert, there was nothing that we didn’t love when we ate here. I still dream about the gnocchi that I had when I was there.
That all being said, I think Bella’s Bistro is known far and wide for its exceptional food. I wasn’t expecting to need to get a reservation to eat at a small restaurant in a tiny town, but we barely made it in when we arrived at 5p. In fact, had we not been willing to eat at the bar, we could not have eaten until 8p. So, if you want to give this place a try, call ahead and get yourself a table. Believe me, it is worth it!
SunnyCup is a very happy little spot, full of little surprises for your eyes. The baristas were not experts at the time I visited, but I loved the vibe in this shop and would visit again.
Finally, the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort is home to the Snowy Mountain Brewery which claims to be the 3rd oldest brewery in Wyoming. It wasn’t the fanciest of places, and I think the food was pretty standard American fare, but I still really enjoyed getting a home grown sour while visiting Saratoga.
All in all, you might not expect it, but Saratoga has some great food offering for anyone looking at what small towns to visit in southern Wyoming.